By the Rev. Dr. J.I. Packer
Think of Shakespeare. Each of his plays is distinctive, having its own character and plot. Some of them are grander than others. But they all have the tang, so to speak, of Shakespeare, and it is hard to imagine any of them being written by anyone else.
So with Paul’s letters. Each is different, and they are not all equally weighty. But in each, we meet the same person: the apostle who lives under the authority of his risen Lord and Saviour, and of the divine message of which he has been made trustee; the teacher who calls constantly for faith in the truth of that message and in its Christ, God-man, sin-bearer, conqueror of death, discipler and coming judge; the pastor who insists that faith must show itself and unshakeable hope and conscientious, law-keeping love. In all Paul’s letters, the flavour of his gospel is steady, sweet and strong, and that is as true of Titus as it is of any.
Titus is sometimes dismissed as a dull, possibly non-Pauline rehash of things that Paul says more vividly elsewhere, notably in his letters to his prize protégé Timothy. But such a verdict is unperceptive, not to say perverse. Titus was Paul’s second deputy after Timothy, and Paul had left him on the island of Crete to finish setting in order the congregations of first-generation converts there. Was this a tough task? Yes. Cretan culture, so it appears, was casual, morally sloppy, undisciplined, self-indulgent, and self-absorbed. It is true that in his letter to Titus, Paul spells out Christian essentials in a somewhat laborious way, but this does not mean that he doubts the adequacy of Titus’ grasp of the Christian basics; what it shows, rather, is that he is going over in his own mind the full and forthright terms in which the fundamentals needed to be impressed on the Christian believers. Equally forthright statements, be it said, to young churches and church plants are sometimes needed today.
Ed Hird is a working pastor, a gospel veteran whose bailiwick for many years has arguably had something of Crete in it. He recognizes the realism of this letter, and his exposition brings it out. I heartily commend what he has written.
Dr. J.I. Packer
Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College;
Prolific author, including Knowing God,
Named by Time Magazine as among the 25 most influential evangelicals in America
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